Council’s plans to bring back nature at Newton Bar

Wakefield Council’s key decision makers are set to discuss plans to restore land at the former council offices site at Newton Bar back to nature.

Jack Hemingway smiling
Cllr Jack Hemingway

During consultation for the Newton Bar road improvement scheme which was due to begin construction in November 2021, concerns were raised at the loss of trees and habitat in this area. To alleviate these concerns, the Council is proposing to create a wildlife area at Newton Bar retuning the site to nature and providing enhanced biodiversity and wildlife habitat.

Cllr Jack Hemingway, Wakefield Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment and Climate Change, said: “We have made a clear commitment to play our part in addressing climate change and biodiversity loss and it is vitally important to us that all improvement schemes work towards achieving this ambition.

“We know that a number of residents and local environment groups were concerned about the environmental impact of the Newton Bar Road Improvement scheme. That is why, following a review, we are pleased to bring further plans to Cabinet, which if approved will see former office land restored back to nature, improving local biodiversity and wildlife, with the ambition to achieve a local wildlife site with protected status.

“The wildlife area will see approximately 200 additional trees being planted, which as well as improving the local environment will also off-set carbon emissions and reduce local flood-risk.”

The road improvement scheme does incorporate tree and hedgerow planting and wildlife habitat provision but by agreeing to also re-wild this former office site will significantly enhance these environmental benefits.

Matthew Morley smiling
Cllr Matthew Morley

Cllr Matthew Morley, Wakefield Council’s Cabinet Member for Planning and Highways, said: “Not only will we be improving the local environment for generations to come, but it will also provide additional walking and cycling routes to Snow Hill, the city centre and other local amenities and schools.

“By continuing with the road improvement scheme, and providing a wildlife area on adjacent land, this proposal is expected to improve local air quality and greenhouse gas emissions by reducing traffic congestion and improved public transport provision.”

In 2019, the Council’s Cabinet approved the £8.6m Newton Bar road junction improvement scheme, funded through West Yorkshire Combined Authority and the West Yorkshire Plus Transport Fund.

The road improvement scheme will reduce congestion on the A650 corridor and at the busy roundabout and to make it easier for cyclists, pedestrians, buses and disabled people to use.

Cabinet are now being asked to discuss £450,000 additional funding to create the important wildlife area.

If plans for the re-wilding scheme at Newton Bar are approved after the meeting, further consultation will take place with local residents and environmental groups to help inform the final design of the site.

Members of Wakefield’s Cabinet are meeting virtually on Tuesday 18 January at 10.30am. The meeting can be watched live or later on the Council’s website. Formal decision making will take place after the meeting.